The psychological thriller “Murderous Trance” is based on the true story of the famed hypnosis murders that occurred in Denmark in the 1950s, where the court system found a man guilty for influencing a man to commit a crime. It’s a fascinating premise for a feature film, but director Arto Halonen‘s finished product is a dull drama that lacks that special spark to make it stand out from the crowd.
Detective Anders Olsen (Pilou Asbæk) investigates a case in Copenhagen where a bank robber shoots two clerks and runs away with the money, but the cash has never been found. When questioned by the police, several eyewitnesses claim the robber was in a trance, making for the most peculiar investigation. It’s learned that the man spent time in prison with the charismatic Björn Schow Nielsen Josh Lucas), a sinister figure who is interested in mystical arts like mind control and the power of suggestion. Olsen beings to suspect that Björn may have hypnotized his fellow inmate to commit the crime for him, but his theory seems so absurd that it’s met with resistance. He enlists the help of a famous hypnotist (Rade Serbedzija) in a bid to uncover the real truth.
The story is a great one, and the film raises interesting questions about the possibility that people can be hypnotized so deeply that they will act against their own moral code. Any narrative that deals with elements of mysticism is in danger of taking it too far, and the film gets a little hokey as it begins to rely too heavily on scenes of deep sleep and psychoanalysis. Its uniformity is tiresome, but the crime drama elements are intriguing.
“Murderous Trance” isn’t a total misstep, but it isn’t the type of film I’d recommend you seek out unless you are fascinated with true crime or the science of mind control. Even then, you’d be better off picking up a book to learn more about the true story behind this movie.
By: Louisa Moore